Background Falls down stairs are a common presentation to the paediatric emergency department. The pattern of injury associated with this mechanism of injury has not been described for the UK population. A retrospective analysis of attendances to the Emergency Department of Sheffield Children's Hospital was carried out.
Results Overall 90% (216/239) of patients sustained one or more injuries; 69% (165/239) sustained minor head and facial injuries; 12% (29/239) sustained minor soft tissue injuries of other regions; 10% (23/239) had limb fractures, of which 60% (14/23) were of the upper limb (nine clavicle fractures, one supracondylar fracture of the elbow and four wrist fractures) and 40% (9/23) were of the lower limb (four femoral fractures and five tibial fractures). Two per cent (5/239) had skull fractures (all were in the group of children dropped while being carried on the stairs). Injuries to more than one body part occurred in only 3% (8/239) of cases.
Discussion The results suggest that children who fall down the stairs are mainly toddlers and in general sustain only minor injuries, the commonest being a minor head injury. Severe truncal and extremity injuries or injuries involving multiple body regions should provoke further questioning looking for evidence of non-accidental injury. There is no correlation between the number of stairs fallen down and the likelihood or severity of injury.
Conclusion Infants who fall down stairs with their carer or are dropped while being carried down stairs require an especially close evaluation.
- paediatric emergency medicine
- paediatric injury
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